West Side Story on stage at the Sydney Opera House

With an aesthetic that pulls straight from today’s vivid and streamlined pop culture, West Side Story stages an exciting reimagining of the original. In that regard, it’s like seeing the second part of a white version of the original: gorgeously dressed street dancers clomping down the streets, smartphones in hand, of a brightly lit early Manhattan. (In contrast, the first part of the show, the role of Tony, the tear-jerking lover, was played by the stoic George Chakiris.) It makes for a much more lighthearted, exciting show than the final one, the through-sung finale.

Spielberg borrows, to some extent, the magic of the 1950s era he filmed here. The actors look so believable in period dresses that even after the money shot, the audience can be forgiven for not noticing the color of the costumes until in comes the S&M scene, where the police-cops and the street gang look suspiciously alike. And sometimes, the 1920s vintage costumes look like no time at all. The West Side Story that unfolds here seems as if it has been re-imagined with an eye toward what we love today, and is what we would expect of a show that is as remarkable as this.

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